Human Rights Day on the 21st of March

21. March 2010 by Ludger

Today is a public holiday in Southern Africa. In South Africa: Human Rights Day, in Namibia: Independence Day, in Lesotho: National Tree Planting Day.

The History

On 21 March 1960, events were planned for many parts of the country, for people to protest against the Pass Laws. These laws required all Africans living or working in and around towns to carry a document (known as a pass) with them at all times. Failure to carry this document would lead to arrest by the police and to people being sent away from the towns in which they lived. On this day people decided to go to police stations without their passes and to demand that the police arrest them.

The idea was that so many people would be arrested and the jails would become so full that the country would not be able to function properly. It was hoped that this would lead to the Pass Laws being scrapped.

At Sharpeville in Gauteng, thousands of people gathered at the police station demanding to be arrested. They were met by 300 police officers. After a scuffle broke out, the police opened fire on the crowd. At least sixty-seven people were killed and 180 injured by the shooting. These people were protesting against unfair laws and were really demanding their human rights. Many of these rights are now included in our Bill of Rights, and include the rights to:

  • Equality (Section 9)
  • Human dignity (Section 10)
  • Freedom of expression (Section 16)
  • Assembly, demonstration, picket and petition (Section 17)
  • Freedom of association (Section 18) and
  • Freedom of movement and residence (Section 21).

Source: (South African Human Rights Commission)

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